I’ve had some shitty day jobs.
There was the mortgage-processing job, where the boss was at great pains on day 1 to tell me about the culture of ‘no blame, only teamwork’. And two months in when I uncovered an error that had been made with some mortgage cheques, he tried to guilt-trip me about the costly solution he’d have to implement — apparently assuming that because I’d uncovered the error, I’d also made it. (I hadn’t.)
There was the workplace I refer to as the Toxic Avenger, where my last defiant act was to act as a witness in a formal complaint of corporate bullying. I hadn’t really considered the aggressive, ignorant behaviour of my superiors to be bullying until I went to HR for something else & they showed me a copy of the Anti-Bullying Policy. Which was about when I realised that no one had ever described my exec director as accurately as that document. He was also a liar, but the policy didn’t cover that.
There was the Narcissism Is Me workplace, where the MD was prone to sending self-pitying emails to all staff about stuff he’d decided to take personally: staff leaving, staff not filling in their timesheets, staff calling him a moron (oh, wait, no one told him that, right?). He also had a nifty way of firing people or downsizing a role without ever actually having to pay out a redundancy. He wasn’t so much a liar as a man living in a land of complete make-believe, fantasising about his own efficacy in the chaotic organisation he’d fostered. Perhaps unsurprisingly, those at greatest geographical distance from him reported being the most happy in their jobs.
Reading back over this list I can see the truth of the idea that people don’t leave bad workplaces, they leave bad bosses.
And of course, we must note the good jobs. The State Library job was a lot of fun. I loved working in a ‘cultural institution’, loved the events, loved the Library’s mission, loved the history, the building, loved a bunch of the people. The casual jobs I had while at or just after uni were great. I worked on campus in a bunch of roles: stuffing envelopes, staffing the info centre, admin-ing at the careers centre. None of it taxing, all of it cheering. The multimedia job I had (right before the internet ate all the multimedia technologies that weren’t net-specific) was also awesome for the 3 months it took the company to go bust.
But the caveat on each day job is that it must feed the writing. Occasionally this has felt like the inevitable failure to serve two masters. Sometimes — less often — it’s worked.
The multimedia fed the writing because it was both creative AND structured (I was a Macromedia Director author, in case anyone recognises that terminology) – but because I loved it I also worked a bunch of extra hours on it, which limited my writing time. In contrast, the Toxic Avenger allowed me a helluva lot of time (these were the years when I was most active in the blogosphere) but made me feel dead on the inside. It’s hard to write when you’re dead. Not so hard to blog, oddly.
I figure by now I’ve tried just about everything I can think of. I’ve tried the dead-end, dull job, I’ve tried the all-in, exhaustive job, & a bunch of patterns in between. I’ve tried a day-job in writing & several well outside. I’ve tried part-time & full-time work. I’ve learned what -– for want of a better word — works. I’ve tried my darnedest to maximise that stuff & minimise the rest.
And I think Eden Robins’ post over at Ecstatic Days is the picture-perfect day-job description. If you’re a similar kinda writer as me, that is.